John Rickart: Oregon blazing trail for universal health care

##John Rickart
##John Rickart

Oregon took a significant step toward achieving universal healthcare in the state with passage of Senate Bill 1089 during the 2023 regular session.

It cleared the Senate 17-8 and the House 34-21. Sponsors included Sen. Elizabeth Steiner, running for state treasurer this year, and Reps. Janelle Bynum and Maxine Dexter, both seeking seats in Congress.

The legislation, which is steadily moving closer to full implementation now, is designed to pave the way for the establishment of a statewide single-payer healthcare system.

That’s a goal Health Care for All Oregon has been advocating for more than two decades now. The envisioned single-payer plan aims to provide comprehensive healthcare coverage to all Oregon residents, eliminating the need for co-pays, deductibles and other forms of out-of-pocket expense.

Under this system, individuals would retain their healthcare coverage even if they lost their jobs, and the entire state would become their network. This approach seeks to put healthcare back into the hands of providers and remove the massive profits generated by insurance companies, which amounted to over $45 billion last year on a national basis.

The implementation of a single-payer plan is currently underway, with a nine-member board and an executive director tasked with developing the details of the system, subject to final approval in late 2026. The plan’s proponents argue that it will not only improve access to healthcare, but also reduce costs for individuals and the state as a whole.

While the path to universal healthcare in Oregon is promising, it is important to acknowledge that challenges and complexities lie ahead. The transition to a single-payer system will require significant effort and collaboration on the part of the various stakeholders, including providers, policymakers and the general public.

It is crucial to approach this endeavor with a balanced perspective, recognizing that while the single-payer plan may address many issues, it may not solve all problems arising within the healthcare system. Ongoing evaluation and adjustment, along with a commitment to continuous improvement, will be necessary to ensure the system’s effectiveness and sustainability.

Ultimately, the pursuit of universal care in Oregon represents a significant step toward ensuring that all residents have access to quality healthcare on an affordable basis, a fundamental right that Health Care for All Oregon has tirelessly advocated for.

By visiting the association website at HCAO.org, Oregonians can learn more about this initiative for a healthcare system that truly serves the needs of all, and how they can contribute to its realization.


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